DAY 11 BASICS:
distance: 30 kilometres from bottom right to top left
weather: windy and overcast
rapids/portages: not really a big deal on this particular day
We were a bit overwhelmed on first seeing all eighty-nine of the Bloodvein rapids on the Wilson maps. We were to find out that not all of them need to be portaged and the ones that do can usually be dealt with fairly easily. This day’s menu is proof of that!
campsite: windy spit just after the north end of Kautunigan Lake
To read this map start at the bottom right at the Day 10 Camp and work your way downriver to the Day 11 Camp at the top left. To quote that contemporary Canadian urban folk poet Drake, when you get to Day 11 Camp you should be able to sing – “Started from the bottom now we here/ Started from the bottom now my whole team here…”
It wasn’t too long after leaving our Day 10 camp that the landscape that had captivated us for the past three days was replaced by a more wide-open wetlands look with very little vertical rock lining the shores. Add to this the evidence of a recent fire that had swept through the area and the river took on a very different feel.
The red zones in the fire burn map below show the most recent fire activity along the Bloodvein in the stretch we paddled after leaving our campsite. Next to the section of the river between Murdock and Larus Lakes, this was the one where the impact of fire was most noticeable.
Oddly enough, moose seem to benefit from the kind of fire pattern which the above map indicates. Unlike a fire which devastates an entire area, the new vegetation growth in the patchwork of fire areas along the Bloodvein actually provides the moose population with more feeding opportunities. We paddled by the following structure – a sign of active moose hunting in the area.
When we got to Bloodvein First Nation a few days later, I was walking along a very dusty Main Street near the Nurses’ Clinic when an SUV stopped. The window rolled down and the driver leaned out and, after a quick welcome, asked if we had seen very many moose upriver. I told him we’d seen a few but none really close to the village. It was mid-July and moose hunting season opened in mid-August so we missed the action.
As we paddled in a more northerly direction the evidence of fire declined and we were looking at terrain more like in the pic below.
The wind and overcast conditions perhaps explain our focus on paddling on this particular day. That, and the less dramatic landscape, meant we took very few pix. At times we thought we were already on the prairies, given how flat the surroundings were!
Our goal for the day was to find the pictograph site at the north end of Kautunigan Lake and then find a decent campsite. First up were the pictographs – the images below capture what we saw. It is definitely one of the humbler collections of pictographs on the Bloodvein and it would seem that the expiry date for these rock paintings is not too far away.
I hate to read too much into the vague lines on the granite but here goes! The squished circle seems to have the same legs on its bottom as does a pictograph at the other end of the Anishinaabe world at Fairy Point on Missinaibi Lake. The line below the circle could be a serpent – or not. We are a long way from the riches of the Artery Lake or Murdock-Larus sites; the headwaters of the river in WCPP has all the great pictograph sites.
Leaving Kautunigan Lake, we paddled for another fifteen minutes along an uninviting shoreline before approaching a spit on river left that has probably seen its share of campers.
(Not implied by that statement is any suggestion of garbage or defacing by previous passers-by. Indeed, all down the river we were amazed at how pristine the various sites were. It was only in the last 20 kilometers before Bloodvein First Nations Village that the litter and other signs of human thoughtlessness started becoming visible.)
I figured that somewhere on our trip down the river I would get some great shots of the red granite veins found in the river bedrock. Well, I am not sure where those great shots are! The two shots below are from our Day 11 campsite and give you some idea of the “blood vein” look that in all likelihood explains where the river got its name. Another account involves a supposed attack by a Sioux (i.e. Dakota) war party on the Ojibwe community at Bloodvein Village in the early 1700’s. The blood is said to refer to the colour of the water after the battle – a bit fanciful given the probable number of warriors involved.
We were happy with the 30 km. we had paddled and hoped that the next day would bring us better weather – and more vertical rock face on the shore line!